Powered by Amsterdam UMC: The origins of MiCA
Deep knowledge, tailor-made results, a multidisciplinary consultancy team and a solid heritage within Amsterdam’s university hospital AMC make MiCA a highly-qualified combination to guide your project to success
The Microbiota Center Amsterdam (MiCA) is a concentration of knowledgeable people — microbiologists, clinical scientists, and bioinformatics experts. These experts join together to inform, and assist, Principal Investigators and other collaborators on studies in the important and fast-developing field of microbiota and disease.
MiCA is the brainchild of three AMC-based Principal Investigators: Max Nieuwdorp, Professor of Internal Medicine; and Professor Joost Wiersinga, chair of the AMC’s Division of Infectious Diseases, and Wouter de Jonge, Professor of Neuro-Gastroenterology.
De Jonge is primarily concerned with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other chronic diseases of the gut, and his area of expertise concerns microbiota in dysbiosis. Nieuwdorp is at the forefront of investigations into the role of microbiota in internal medicine, for conditions such as diabetes and obesity and how to use microbiota to stimulate lean-ness. He is a pioneer in the field of fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) related to insulin sensitivity. Wiersinga is an internal medicine specialist in infectious diseases and has studied the role of antibiotics and gut microbiota in an increased risk of sepsis elsewhere in the body.
This trio of experts joined forces and successfully applied for an AMC innovation grant through the Impuls 2017 initiative. This grant aims to help initiatives which provide a structure to develop the AMC further in innovative fields of research. This funding was most welcome, but not enough to fully fund the entire MiCA team and pipelines, so each of the three founders added considerable additional resources from their own research grants, in order to build a sustainable business model for MiCA in the years to come.
Microbiota is not a mere hype. It is becoming clear that microbiota are common denominators in almost every disease which we study. The three founders recognised a strong need for AMC to get to the leading edge on this area of knowledge which combines microbiology with the latest analytical technology. In addition to providing the facilities needed to be able to sequence DNA, it is equally if not more important to analyse that information in the context of a particular study using the bioinformatic expertise which is now present at MiCA.
New study areas
Importantly, we do not stop once microbiota detection and analysis has taken place. We are increasingly involved into new areas of study around this field. We are also at the forefront of role of the fungal component of microbiota in disease, as well as in studies which look into the metabolic capacity of microbiota via partnerships with, for example, the MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre in London.
Willingness among PIs
MiCA sees a great willingness among Principal Investigators (PIs) to include microbiota in their studies, but we also note that it is often difficult for them to truly interpret the resulting data, and establish whether the study setup was actually appropriate for that goal. At MiCA, we felt that this can be improved by involving PIs in the entire sample analysis and interpretation process. In the past, samples were often sent to external test laboratories, and their teams were not always fully equipped to expertly analyse or process the resulting output data.
The main aim of MiCA, therefore, is to bridge that knowledge gap. This multidisciplinary approach results in a final report based on your sample data which is tailor-made: the meaning this output is generated in close dialogue with PIs and clients on a case-by-case basis.
February 15, 2018, marks the start of an educational series of e-learnings aimed at increasing the knowledge and assist investigators at AMC, and commercial clients, on how to set up clinical trials or fundamental studies including microbiota. This initiative is aimed at generating more experiments in this field, but uses as a departure point how the calculations are performed and what type of data you can expect. Historically the pipeline for studies involving microbiota was very fragmented. Due to the “one-stop-shop” nature of MiCA — that no longer needs to be the case. More information on these e-learnings will find its way on this website in the near future.
An interesting development is the partnership that exists with Amsterdam Zoo Artis, and the Amsterdam microbe museum “Micropia”, through our commercial partner Reckitt Benckiser. We are also already part of the Master curriculum of biomedical sciences and university studies and soon students will be able take part in courses involving MiCA.
MiCA already has close ties with a range of companies in different sectors including nutrition. These include Danone, Reckitt Benckiser, and DSM. MiCA’s clear advantage for these partners is the clinical environment and the concentration of knowledge which we have in both microbiology and the often-overlooked discipline of bioinformatics.
MiCA offers competitive rates to have samples analysed in a center where there are clinical specialists as well as scientists. This is a superior combination to guide your project to success.
There are a number of Public Private Partnerships already in place at AMC, meaning there is a good supportive structure for such ventures. This includes business developers who can help set up contracts, intellectual property (IP) rights and other necessary formalities.
At Amsterdam UMC, we are used to working together with commercial partners, and work together with our industry partners in a very pleasant way: we do not simply perform analysis without any involvement in the study. We welcome collaboration with industry partners through which can mutually create good science. This is a much more complete and involved package than simple sample analysis.